'Raging Bull' (Two-Disc 30th Anniversary)
(Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent, Nicholas Colasanto, et al / Blu ray+DVD / R / (1980) 2011 / MGM)
Overview: Martin Scorsese's brutal black-and-white biography of self-destructive boxer Jake LaMotta was chosen as the best film of the 1980s in a major critics' poll at the end of the decade, and it's a knockout piece of filmmaking. Robert De Niro plays LaMotta (famously putting on 50 pounds for the later scenes), a man tormented by demons he doesn't understand and prone to uncontrollably violent temper tantrums and fits of irrational jealousy!
Blu ray Verdict: This definitely isn't your average feel-good, stereotypical, underdog boxing movie. After all, Sly Stallone was the sole owner to the keys to that kingdom four years prior w/ his beloved "Rocky". In fact, this film really isn't about boxing at all (although there's a plethora of savage, short fight scenes throughout), its intentions and focus are much more intricate.
"Raging Bull" is a powerful, provocative, realistic work of art, a character study about an emotionally-disturbed, self-destructive boxer, who's indocile and violent nature take him to the top of his profession while at the same time completely destroying his personal life outside of the ring. Yes, sometimes a man's greatest strengths can be his own worst enemy.
Bobby DeNiro gives the performance of the century as the infamous, pugnacious pugilist Jake La Motta, a raging bull(y) if there ever was one. It was definitely a no-brainer the following year when DeNiro took home the coveted Oscar for best actor. The film also introduced us to Cathy Moriarty (Vickie Thailer, La Motta's wife) and Joe Pesci (Joey La Motta, Jake's older and wiser brother and manager), who both gave outstanding Oscar nominated performances as well.
According to Hollywood folklore, Pesci was on the brink of quitting acting all together when De Niro, who had seen his only performance up to that point in the 1976 B-movie mafia debacle "The Death Collector", decided he wanted Pesci for this important role. A decision that turned out to be brilliant, for can anyone imagine "Goodfellas" and "Casino" without little Joe?
Two other notable actors deserve mention here for their fine performances as well - Frank Vincent (Salvy Batts) most famous for his role as Phil Leotardo in "The Soprano's" and Nicholas Colasanto (Tommy Como) who of course we all remember fondly as "Coach" in the hit T.V. series "Cheers".
Martin Scorcese and DeNiro would again call upon writer Paul Schrader whom they teamed up with four years prior in the avant-garde classic "Taxi Driver" and the results were obviously duplicated. This collaboration once again produced an intense, gritty, often times seedy portrait of a lost, lonely, paranoid anti-hero, just another lost soul ensnared in the underbelly of New York society.
Splendidly shot in black & white in order to enhance the malaise and misery of the turbulent era in which La Motta reigned, this violent and disturbing film pulls no punches. Although "Goodfellas" may be my favorite of all Scorcese's films, I would still have to say that overall, this was his magnum opus.
If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing this one yet, rent or buy it today. [JD] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Three commentaries: Director Martin Scorsese and Editor Thelma Schooonmaker, cast and crew, storytellers
Four new featurettes: Marty & Bobby; Raging Bull: Reflections on a Classic; Remembering Jake; Marty on Fockers
Cathy Moriarty on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, March 27, 1981
Raging Bull: Fight Night--four-part
The Bronx Bull--Behind-the-scenes featurette
De Niro vs. La Motta--Shot-by-shot comparison in the ring
La Motta Definds Title--Vintage Newsreel Footage